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By KEITH TAYLOR, firstname.lastname@example.org
Avery Williamson hasn’t forgotten Kentucky’s loss to Western Kentucky last season. The loss still lingers going into Saturday’s season-opener against the Hilltoppers.
“It was a bad feeling,” the Kentucky middle linebacker recalled during the team’s media luncheon Monday at Wildcat Den. “We felt like we were at the bottom of the pile because we lost to Louisville (two weeks earlier). We felt like we were the No. 3 (college football team) in the state. It was a bad feeling, definitely.
“They were a good team, but I was pretty embarrassed to lose, because we (had never) lost to Western. I was pretty mad at myself and everybody — it was a downfall.”
A year removed from the school’s first-ever loss to the Hilltoppers in football, Williamson and the Wildcats want to erase the memories of last year’s 32-31 overtime loss to the Hilltoppers at Commonwealth Stadium. The contest will be played at LP Field in Nashville, where Kentucky handed Western a 14-3 loss two years ago.
“It feels good to go at it again on such a big stage,” Williamson said of the Hilltoppers. “I’m ready to go down there and just get the win. We’ll feed off (last year’s loss) and use that as (motivation). You’ve got to use some of it as (motivation) and then focus on doing what you need to do.”
This time around, the Cats have a new coach, scheme and renewed purpose, and Williamson is ready for the Mark Stoops era to begin. Williamson said the season opener has been a long time coming.
“It feels like it’s been a long time (since we played our last game),” he said. “Even in the spring, it didn’t feel like the summer was going to get here. It felt like it was going to take forever. Now it’s here and I’m excited and ready to go. We want to go out there, set the tone and let people know that this is a different Kentucky team.That’s why we want to be perfect in practice, all day, every week. We want to start off on a good foot.”
Since Stoops was hired to replace Joker Phillips, Williamson said the Cats have been eager to move past last year’s 2-10 campaign and embrace a new beginning.
“We’ve been preparing all spring and all summer really, with the coaches and (learning) the playbook,” he said. “I’m ready to put it on film now — ready to go to Nashville and get the (season) started. We get a chance to redeem ourselves from last year. It wasn’t really (the finish) anybody expected last year. We just need to focus on what we need to do. I’m not worried about last year, I’m just looking forward to this game.
In preparation for the Hilltoppers, Williamson said the Cats have been studying old Arkansas game film in an effort to a feel for Western Kentucky coach Bobby Petrino’s high-powered offensive attack. He added that having a good handle of the defense will be an added bonus when it comes to defending against the Hilltoppers.
“The biggest thing is that we know what to do, especially defensively,” he said of the team’s defensive preparation. “We have a better grasp of what we have to do out there.”
Williamson, a senior, said the emphasis is to win now instead of looking ahead to the future, despite the heavy odds stacked against the Cats.
“We’ve just got to go out there, play and prove (the doubters) wrong,” Williamson said. “That’s what you’ve got to do.”
Now that he’s one of the seasoned veterans on the team, Williamson plans on being a leader, especially vocally.
“The guys depend on me to speak up and say things,” he said. “I feel like I’m a leader now and I’ve taken that role on.”